Royal Tokaji Essencia (500ML) 1999
Other Dessert from Hungary
The first perfect, 100-point score ever bestowed by Wine & Spirits Magazine.
New, it has whiplash flavors and off-the-chart acidity that can catch in your throat. As it mellows, it casts an almighty deposit, it turns a wonderful bright mahogany color and weaves an astonishing tapestry of flavors – of apricots, quinces, marmalade, butterscotch... 'So different from other wines' said one critic, 'that it is like seeing a new primary color'.
The first vintage of the "true" Royal Tokaji Essencia since the celebrated 1993, the 1999 Essencia is offered in a stately brass-hinged wooden box carved from Hungarian oak, lined with velvet and containing a hedonistic first – the indulgent Royal Tokaji Hungarian crystal sipping spoon. The spoon was designed exclusively for Royal Tokaji, enabling 33 sips per bottle – or 66 if you share your spoonful with a loved one. The back label bears the number of each bottle produced.
Wine & Spirits - "How can a wine score 100 points? When it leaves an entire panel of tasters speechless, struggling to find words to describe a wine that seems to defy possibility. Is it enough to say that it smells like a bergamot orange grove in full bloom? That it really, truly feels like satin, so slippery smooth that even professionals can't keep it from going down their throats? The flavors recall spice, smoke, flowers and tropical fruit, but like satin, the weave of this wine is so tight it's impossible to make out exact threads. It's so sweet and acidic it almost hurts-in a good way. I can't think of anything it lacks, or anything that might make it better. That's pretty much the definition of perfect-and thus, the score. And at 2.9 percent alcohol, 600 grams per liter of sugar, and 18 grams per liter of sugar (it's solely free-run juice captured from the aszú grapes), it will outlive us all. Stupendous."
Royal Tokaji Wine Company Winery
The first Tokaji Aszú (toh-KAY ah-SOO) wine was created in the 1600s, perhaps by accident - a harvest delayed by threat of enemy invasion. In 1700, Tokaj became the first European region to have its vineyards classified, its uniquely varied terroirs and climates rated Primae Classis, Secundae Classis, Tertius Classis ("1st Growth, 2nd Growth, 3rd Growth") by Prince Rakoczi of Transylvania. This classification system is still used in Hungary today. Louis XIV of France (1638 - 1715) declared Tokaji "the wine of Kings and the King of wines", while in the 18th century, Catherine the Great stationed soldiers in Tokaj to protect her vineyards.
Quality production ended with World Wars I and II and the Communist takeover of Hungarian winemaking. Aszú grapes were used for mass production in factories, with vineyard distinctions lost in giant tanks. Tokaji's renaissance began after the collapse of communism with the Royal Tokaji Wine Company (RTWC) in 1989, inspired by well-known wine author, Hugh Johnson, and others. RTWC's founders started the winery in an effort to preserve what they considered a dying art. "I couldn't resist bringing back to life a wine that had been so renowned centuries ago," says Johnson.
About HungaryView a map of Hungary wineries
Wine of Kings and the King of WinesThe most well-known and important wine in Hungary is Tokay-Aszú, truly one of the world's greatest sweet wines. Louis XIV – France's Sun King – once called the wine, "vinum regum, rex vinorum," translated as, "the wine of kings and the king of wine." Unfortunately, the king of wine suffered during Hungary's 50-year communist regime - exports of Tokay-Aszú decreased and the vineyards were nationalized with a focus on lower quality and higher quantity. When the communist government fell in 1989, the vines for making Tokay-Aszú were in a state of disrepair. With the help of investors and the creation of the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, the Hungarian vineyards and wine industry were rebuilt.
Notable FactsWhile Tokay-Aszú is the most important and most imported of Hungarian wines, it only represents about 10% of the total wine produced. The rest of Hungary is spotted with over 20 different wine regions, most cultivating both the indigenous varieties of the country and several international varieties that arrived with the post-communism investors. In the whites, the indigenous variety of Furmint plays double duty, making still white wines and remaining the most crucial grape in the Tokay blend. Other indigenous varieties include Hárslevelú, Olaszrizling (Welschriesling) and Irsai Oliver, a newcomer that produces delicious dry whites. The international varieties of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Muscat also play a role. For reds, Merlot is the most popular of the international crowd, while on the indigenous side you have Kadarka and Kékfrankos (the Hungarian name for Austria's Blaufränkisch).
About Tokay-Aszú(toh-KAY ah-SOO)Tokay is the English word for Tokaji, which is the name for the wine produced in the Hungarian region of Tokaj. The region produces both dry and sweet wines, but is most famed for the rich sweet wine called Tokay Aszú. Like Sauternes and sweet German wines, Tokay Aszú is made from grapes (mainly Furmint, with some Harslevelu and occasionally a bit of Muscat) affected by the famed mold, botrytis cinerea. It is of interest to note, however, that Tokay Aszú was made centuries before the Germans or the French discovered the rich, honeyed effect of the noble rot.
To make Tokay-Aszú is a process:
Two sets of grapes are picked – first, the workers scan the fields, picking the Aszu grapes - those affected by botrytis. These grapes are then gently pressed to make an Aszú paste. Grapes not affected by botrytis are then picked and fermented into a high-acid base wine.
Once both the paste and the still wines are complete, the two are combined. The Aszú paste is added to the base wine in amounts referred to as puttonyos (puh-TOON-yohsz). The higher the puttonyos, the sweeter the wine. Most Tokay-Aszú on the market is between 3 puttonyos and 6 puttonyos.
Beyond 6 puttonyos is Tokay Aszú Essencia. Tokay Aszú Essencia is equal in sweetness to about 7 puttonyos, and is made in only the best years from the best vineyards.
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Alcohol By Volume GuideMost wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
- Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
- Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
- Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.
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